Hot-shots made at mixed

TODD SAELHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:36 PM ET

Susan O'Connor fondly recalls curling in her first national championship.

Russ Howard was there, a treat for the up-and-comer in her early 20s.

And her career took quite an up-turn with the 2000 title take alongside Alberta skip Kevin Koe at the Lethbridge Curling Club.

"That was awesome," said O'Connor, now 30 and the highly touted third of Dean Ross' Alberta squad in the 2008 Canadian Mixed Curling Championships at the Calgary Curling Club. "To say I beat Russ Howard, that was one of my curling highlights.

"And we were unknowns in 2000. Nobody knew who Kevin Koe and Susan O'Connor were until after we won that year."

It's why the Calgary native considers the mixed nationals a stepping stone for curlers.

And it's why O'Con-nor expects a few unknowns will rise to become household names from this week's championship.

Just who remains to be seen, but it's a good bet a few could hail from Northern Ontario, which pushed O'Connor and Alberta yesterday in a bid to become the event's top team through eight draws.

Indeed, Mike Assad has his Port Arthur Curling Club rink right in the hunt for the 2008 national title. The 29-year-old skip, who is joined by youngsters Ashley Miharija, Mike McCarville and Larissa Stevens, has led the Northern Ontario mixed champ to a 5-3 start.

Yesterday's key game saw them try to upset the home side only to come up shy in a 9-6 tilt and watch as Alberta clinched a playoff berth.

"Definitely we had a few picks in that game," said Assad, who also skipped the Northern Ontario entry in the 2006 mixed nationals.

"I wouldn't say that was the difference, but that didn't help our cause."

It allowed Alberta to improve to 7-0 and put distance between itself and second-place Northern Ontario in the standings.

In the evening draw, Assad and Co. allowed two in the final end in a 6-5 loss to B.C.

But the hot-shots from Thunder Bay, Ont., will likely be heard from again -- if not this week then sometime in the sport's future.

"We're not surprised to be doing so well," said Assad, who was lead for Al Hackner at the 2001 Brier. "It's nice to know people are noticing us."

SCORES & MORE

Other Draw 7 scores: Nova Scotia 7, Manitoba 3; Quebec 8, Newfoundland 3; Ontario 8, Saskatchewan 4; B.C. 10, New Brunswick 3; Yukon/NWT 12, PEI 10. Other Draw 8 scores: Nova Scotia 8, Newfoundland 6; Ontario 8, Yukon/NWT 6; Quebec 8, Saskatchewan 5; Manitoba 5, Alberta 4; New Brunswick 8, PEI 2.

LAST ROCK

Round-robin draws continue today at noon and 6 p.m and tomorrow at 9 a.m. with playoffs to follow. The final goes Friday at 1 p.m.


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